Tag Archives: Himesh Patel


No worries, no spoilers.

I’m an insomniac, emphasis on the niac. As in: not sleeping turns you into a complete and utter maniac. As in: not many good words end in niac. Egomaniac. Pyromaniac. Kleptomaniac. Megalomaniac, for maniacs with positive self regard. But while the word insomniac focuses on that which I do not have (ie, sleep), it fails to account for the many things I’ve gained, (ie, time). Time to stew on thoughts and do deep dives probing insecurities and trying new anxieties on for size, sure, of course, but also time to read. There is a special kind of reading that takes place in the middle of the night, when everyone else is sleeping. Once you’ve reached at least the 36th hour of nonstop awakeness, your brain unveils a secret capacity, a wormhole of clarity, almost, wherein all things are possible. I do read a fair amount of trash, but every now and again I like to throw in a hefty tome or two, just in case I’m secretly a genius with untapped potential, should I ever come across it. And it was on one such night, June 6, 2018 in fact, in a feverish sleepless state, that I was reading a book about string theory and understanding it. By morning, the ghost of string theory was still with me, and as long as I didn’t attempt to look at it straight in the face, it was there, a light dusting of dew on my brain that I worried would evaporate with the sun. Or rather, with sleep. Anyway, I am to this day not a world-renowned particle physicist, so it wasn’t permanent or complete enlightenment. But this wasn’t the first time I’d experienced such insight. In March of 2003, I was making my way through James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Ugh. That Joyce is a straight up dick. Finnegans Wake is the single most obtuse piece of literature to ever darken the Dewey decimal system. If you hate readers so much, why on earth did you become a writer? Idioglossia my ass, this man’s just straight up making shit up as he goes along all stream of consciousness like he’s never met a piece of punctuation he didn’t want to flick to the ground and grind it like it’s the stub of a cigarette and we’re the ones getting smoked. But for a minute there, a glorious minute, I was getting it. I was getting it! I was lost in the rhythm of Joyce’s unique syntax, I was beyond comprehension, I was feeling the meaning, and the subtext. I was absorbing it into my skin like Joyce and his opaque one-hundred-letter-words were nothing but aloe.

This might feel like kind of a digression, but first let me remind you that in order to digress, you have to have first introduced the topic from which to digress, and I haven’t done that, so consider the above paragraph bonus content. Now I will tell you that I am writing a review of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, the saviour of the summer blockbuster. Except it’s now been released at the very end of August, and even as desperate as people are for a good movie and a return to some normalcy, Tenet is not some trashy beach read, accessible and easily digested. It is most definitely a Finnegans Wake, and it’s unlikely to save cinema no matter what the hype may have you believe.

After a brush with insomnia over the weekend, I got some medically-induced sleep earlier this week and am feeling fresh of brain and body. But Christopher Nolan knows how to hypnotize his audience. We feel, if not incapacitated, then intoxicated. Nolan builds the kinds of worlds we might encounter in dreams. Inception taught us to challenge everything. Interstellar taught us to think outside the box. Tenet merely kicks us in the teeth.

The good thing about not understanding a movie is that you can’t possibly spoil it. And yes, yes there were times when I thought I was getting it. I was a smug little shit, untangling the plot like it’s a delicate, thoroughly knotted rose gold pendant that I’m desperate to dangle above my cleavage at dinner, the diamond shining just a little brighter for having worked for it. But no. No.

John David Washington is simply The Protagonist, an operative with a global assignment to stop a renegade Russian oligarch from destroying the world. To do so, he’ll have to master time inversion because sometimes the only way out is through.

Parallel universes are for pussies. Christopher Nolan’s played with time and space before. This time he’s fucking with it, and with us.

In the deepest, deepest layers of Inception, it was difficult to judge just how many layers down we’d gone, and therefore it was easy to lose track of which reality was actual reality. When Leo spins that top and the screen goes black before we know whether it will topple over, that’s basic math. Like, ultra basic. Not even addition, just straight counting. Tenet is like abstract algebra, necessitating the contemplation of infinite dimensions. Plus number theory, the properties of and relationships between integers and integer-valued functions. Nolan may be one heck of a professor and Tenet the most sublime power point presentation, but this shit is hard and for most of us, a little out of reach. Way too many times during the film I could smell the smoke coming from my brain as it attempted to calculate and process too many things at once. I am way too linear a thinker to feel comfortable when Tenet hits its stride, which is frustrating because those are objectively the very most interesting bits!

You know those pricks who back into a parking spot just because they can? Like it was totally unnecessary so they’re basically just showing off? Nolan is that prick. Tenet is his oversized pickup truck. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS HARD! But since it is, a few tricks:

  1. Pay attention to everything. Because everything is something, nothing is nothing, the more nothing it seems, the more something it is.
  2. You’re going to want to watch it again. Even if you hate the movie and how it makes you feel (cough*inadequate*cough), you’ll want to see it again. You need to watch it with the knowledge you can only gain by watching it hopelessly and helplessly the first time. And you’re definitely going to want to discuss it.
  3. The title is a clue.
  4. The movie poster is a clue.
  5. Even my goddamned digression is an accidental clue.
  6. Everything is important, okay? And it’s all happening all the time, and especially when it’s not. So don’t let your guard down.

TIFF19: The Aeronauts

James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) was a scientist and an aspiring meteorologist in a time when that field did not yet exist (1862, to be precise). So, he decided to invent it. To do that, he tapped balloon pilot Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) (actually a balloon widow with a tragic backstory) to ascend toward the heavens, or at least beyond the clouds, in a historic balloon flight higher than any other.

Up they go, to dangerous heights. In the pursuit of science, Glaisher urges them higher still. With her husband’s death still fresh in her mind (and his blood perhaps still on her hands), Amelia prefers caution. Still, when they inevitably meet up with trouble, it is she who will save them both while he is basically just cargo, a useless man looking at his instruments.

It’s a dizzying and inspiring story, full of rah-rah, girls can do anything chutzpah that is of course completely fabricated. James Glaisher is in fact a real-life scientist, but the man who took him up in his balloon and ultimately saved his life was pioneer Henry Coxwell, who got written out of the story in order for these two The Theory of Everything costars to reunite. In truth, it is Amelia and not James who is the colour in the story. She is the one we naturally gravitate to. Would the story be as compelling without her?

Confusingly, IMDB lists the character as a Ms. Wren while the film itself seems to prefer Rennes. I suppose it doesn’t matter since she’s fictional, and perhaps it’s nearly fitting since Amelia is not just a fearless balloon pilot but a bit of a showgirl as well. Crowds have paid for the privilege of watching their launch, which funds their research, and she understands the value of putting on a bit of a show – which of course her stodgy scientist partner doesn’t get. He’s more into his pigeons, which he plans to throw from the balloon at different heights. The pigeons have no idea what’s in store for them.

The balloon ultimately reaches about 37 000 feet, which is roughly the cruising height of a jumbo jet. Up there, the air is cold, and there is less and less oxygen. Glaisher is the immediate victim, having brought along many thermometers but no warm clothes. For “authenticity,” director Tom Harper had Jones and Redmayne actually filming about 2000 feet in the air, which he captured via helicopter. In the olden days, an air balloon worked by 2 mechanisms. The basket was weighted with sandbags; to go higher, you let out some sand. To go lower, you let out some air. Today we have hot air balloons, which use fire to heat the air, and of course hot air rises. Allowing the air to cool means you drift down. I got to go up in a hot air balloon once. I am not overly fond of heights, or more specifically, of falling to my death from one, so I worried a lot about what the ascent would be like, and if I’d feel sick, or scared, and if the basket would bounce around, or if I’d have to hold on for dear life. In fact, the ascent was smooth, so utterly without event that I forgot to be scared at all and just completely enjoyed the ride. But then you have to get back down. That’s the part I’d failed to worry about, or even picture. And of course, that’s the bumpy part because the basket doesn’t just touch down gracefully, kissing the earth. It smacks it, hard, then jumps back up, then smacks down again, the basket getting drawn along jaggedly, thumping away while you assume the ‘crash’ position, huddled on its bottom, trying not to fall out.

There was something very satisfying about the movie, which is told within the framework of their historic 90 minute flight, with flashbacks telling the story of how they came to dance among the clouds together. Even from the sky, the film has a very strong sense of time and place. I was struck by the injustice of James presenting his findings to the Royal Society alone, because Amelia’s being female disqualified her from even being on the property. Of course since she never actually existed, the point is kind of moot, but their pairing does make for a very compelling story, and The Aeronauts are not exactly the first to embellish history in the service of better storytelling.